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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Google for Educators: The Best Features for Busy Teachers

Kyle Pace
Instructional Technology Specialist
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Among all the links and downloads out there, it can be hard for teachers to know which ones work best. Google has made it easier by creating Google for Educators, which compiles some of the search engine's most useful features in one place. Whether you're teaching Spanish or social studies, mathematics or music, there's a free Google feature that will make your lessons more dynamic and your projects more organized. The lively, informative website offers step-by-step visual tours and even videos to help you get set up. Below are some of the most useful features the site has to offer.

Google Search

Google Search is at the heart of it all. It’s where many of us go multiple times a day to locate information. Google provides excellent resources for teachers and students to become effective searchers and build essential digital literacy skills for finding quality, credible resources on the web. Here you'll discover lesson plans, an online course to become a Power Searcher, and challenges such as A Google a Day. In my opinion, it all starts here for our students.

Google Play for Education

Google Play for Education is a version of Google Play that is specifically for educational content such as Chrome apps (for Chromebooks), Android apps (for tablets such as the Nexus 7/9), YouTube EDU videos, and books. The best part of having all this great educational content in one place is that it's easy for teachers to locate the content, and easy for them to push it out to their students' devices, such as Chromebooks and Nexus tablets.

Google Drive

Google Drive is particularly handy for teachers when revising students' work and providing feedback. It allows you and your class to track what changes have been made, save each revision, and collaborate in real time. And it's a great organizing tool -- you can easily upload existing files to Google Drive so that everything is accessible in one place. Not only can your students create electronic Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings, they can also connect other apps to Google Drive for tasks such as photo editing, video editing, and creating dynamic charts and presentations. Check out apps like Pixlr Express, WeVideo, and Lucidchart to give your Google Drive even more creative capacity. The best tip I can offer on Google Drive? Be organized, be organized, be organized!

Google Sites

Google Sites is your place to create a digital classroom on the web. One of the best things about Google Sites is its ability to be that digital hub for your classroom. You can combine video, documents, forms, calendars, and other resources all in one place for student and parent access. Students can also use Sites to showcase their work and create digital portfolios that can follow them from year to year. Tip: A great way to start is by creating templates that teachers can use to build their site. Think carefully about content and structure before the prettying things up!

Eye in the Sky: Melissa Browning's students saw their school's Brooklyn neighborhood through Google Maps's street view.

Credit: Google Maps

Google Maps

Google Maps helps students explore the world around them. They can go virtually anywhere in the world because of Street View, Google Earth Pro is now free, and teachers and students can use Google Maps Engine Lite to create custom maps for a variety of projects.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is Google's newest product (August 2014) available to Google Apps for Education users. Classroom helps teachers to streamline their digital workflow by creating a space where they can easily push out announcements and assignments, and give students a way to interact with the teacher and classmates, as well as turn in assignments electronically. Most recently, Google has made it even easier for students by releasing Android and iOS versions of Google Classroom. Teachers that have invested the time to use Classroom consistently have told me that it has forever changed their workflow and made their classroom not only more paperless but also more efficient.

Google YouTube

YouTube can be an excellent tool for teaching and learning. While educators can tap into existing YouTube content, this medium also does a great job of equipping teachers with the ability to create original content for their students. Teachers can begin by locating and organizing existing video content, and then gradually shift to creating their own. We have a responsibility to model appropriate use of this powerful classroom tool.

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

S.R.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really like Blogger, but IMHO only someone who has not tried this in a school setting would recommend it. Blogger has some anti-spam tool that will block your students from using it after it detects a few people signing up from the same IP address range. This was a death blow to the project we were working on. There was no clear/easy solution other than to get our IT people involved and they didn't want to be involved. This otherwise great program was completely useless for our school.

Anissa Barton-Thompson's picture
Anissa Barton-Thompson
Computer Instructor/Technologist for Gardena Valley Christian School

As a Google Apps for Education school, some definite problems we've encountered are:
1) Google Maps working sporadically with no rhyme or reason as to why; Google support has been unsuccessful in finding out why the map tiles will load on all but 20 of our stations... and those 20 happen to be in our main computer lab, but with the same software, configurations, security and user settings as the other 70 stations throughout the rest of the school. I have many wonderful lesson plans that are simply on hold until we can get Google Maps to load consistently.
2) Blogger is a wonderful tool, but requires students to be 13 years of age or older (at least that was the stipulation when we first started seeking blogging tools for in-school use).

Now, for some wonderful pros:
1) It's FREE to schools, and since we are a non-profit, we qualified for a free hosting account through DreamHost, which already provided full integration of all Google tools with their account services.
2) It's easy to setup faculty and student accounts. You can bulk create student accounts via import from a .csv export of your school's student records; Google even provides a simple tool to import your Outlook/other email software accounts into Gmail.
3) The Google Calendar, Docs/Spreadsheets/Presentation, Sites and Groups are very flexible and easy to integrate with any other web services you have. For example, I publish a school Google calendar that houses closures & holidays, athletic schedules, teacher meetings (which are private), field trips, and other events, that parents and teachers can copy into their own Google calendars/other calendaring tools. (See for examples)
4) My 4th and 5th grade students *love* Google Groups and collaborate on projects online every week.

Aaron Anderson's picture

My work has been considering becoming a Google Apps for Education school, there is no liaison as with microsoft @Live helping sculpt out a long term implementation plan for our business requirements.
>> FREE to schools
Ms. Thompson is correct that it is FREE to share with students except what she must NOT KNOW, is that there is a LIMIT of access for Google DOCS at 3500 Students... Since our Student body is 7500 we'd have a new fee for each seat above that head count to deal with and thats is a show stopper...
Since I cannot seem to find a Point Of Contact Google Apps to interface and negotiate this item. Momentum for implementation has been lost for next semester.

Toni Krasnic's picture
Toni Krasnic
I help students learn and succeed in school and life with mind maps.

I just came across Goggle knol ( and love it. It's a great new Google application (still in Beta mode) that makes it easy to create, collaborate on, and publish content. It's just like a wiki, where users can collaborate on writing a document and/or post comments. Give it a try.

For a sample, see a knol that I just created:

Anissa Barton-Thompson's picture
Anissa Barton-Thompson
Computer Instructor/Technologist for Gardena Valley Christian School

Aaron is right, Google does have a restriction on total number of users; as our school consists of less than 400 student and faculty accounts total, we are unaffected by this restriction, but I do understand the concern for school districts...

Also, regarding Google Maps: we were able to resolve our missing tiles issue. The solution was to remove 10-year-old software (Jumpstart and Knowledge Adventure) titles which caused graphic conflicts with the javascript code Google uses to generate and place the map tiles.

BONUS!: Starting this Fall 2010, Google will finally allow account combinations, allowing for the use of other Google services that were previously separate from Google Apps to now be incorporated into Apps for Education/Business. (!)

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Chief Information Officer

We had that problem, but fixed it. You can contact Google and they can help you. I actually found the answer in the Google support forums.

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Chief Information Officer

Some of the best things about Google are the ability for teachers to use it for free - I have a website, class blogs, use Google Docs, and more, all for free. My students use Google Docs and Gmail too. They sign up for it on their own, as opposed to the whole school using it. Our school still uses Microsoft products. Students do not get any email from school. They do get some storage space on the school network for files, but not much. So, 1st week of school, I introduce them to Google's apps along with other ones like Evernote, OpenOffice, Trackclass, and Dweeber. I work in a district with 96% of the students qualifying for free lunch so I share as many free resources as I can with them.

Here's a list of some of the other free resources for students:
and for teachers:

Colleen's picture

I have been working over the summer on learning as much as possible on interactive technology for Kindergarten level. i found the comments posted above interesting and informative.

Senorita Hill's picture
Senorita Hill
World Language Teacher (Spanish)

I appreciate this website, not only for its innovative ideas but for its ability to permit teachers to collaborate with one another. Thank you!

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Educator, EdTech Specialist, Education Administrator

We have all 26,000 students and staff using Google Apps and it is going great. I also work with other districts and all love it.

There are some issues, as people have pointed out above, but for the most part, Google Apps are the easiest, best product. They are easy to managed and deploy, easy to use, free, allow for collaboration, and familiar to many people.

Here are some resources I've collected and created for using Google Apps in Education.

Feel free to use and share.

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